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d’archéologie orientale du Caire


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Hieroglyphic Hands

Hieroglyphic Hands at Deir el-Medina

The project ‘Hieroglyphic Hands of Deir el-Medina’ aims to document thousands of hieroglyphic signs which were painted on the walls of tombs at this workmen’s village at Thebes. Unusually for non-royal tombs, many burial-chamber walls at this site were painted with elaborate iconography and texts painted in monumental-type hieroglyphs. These texts form an unparalleled resource for our understanding of the morphology, ductus and orthography of these sacred signs in funerary contexts and the biographies of the individuals who painted them.
The creation of an interactive database, using Archetype software developed by King’s College London, will enable the differentiation of handwriting-styles of particular scribe/painters (sS-qd.w/zXa.ww-qd) who resided in this village during the 18th to 20th Dynasties. Through rapid search and comparative analysis of multi-facetted images and annotations, this resource will enable distinctive characteristics of style to be highlighted. It can then determine those locations in funerary monuments where specific scribe/painter worked and so assist our understanding of the creative processes and procedures for the decorative schemas as they were painted in tombs of workmen. Indeed, this may also allow identification of work locations of specific scribe/painters in the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, where they performed their royal duties.
In addition, this dataset, and its capacity to be used to distinguish hieroglyphic handwriting styles, will facilitate analysis of hieroglyphs on artefacts which were discovered at Deir el-Medina and are now on display in museums around the world. It can then become a tool which increases our knowledge of artefact biographies, potentially furnishing data concerning date, the identity of the painter and aspects of funerary commercial activities within Deir el-Medina.
This is intended to be a ‘dynamic’ online database, with data being added tomb by tomb, as burial chambers become accessible for documentation. The 20th Dynasty tomb of Chief Workman Inherkhâouy/Anhurkhawy (ii) (TT 359), dating to Ramesses IV, is the first tomb to be documented. Preliminary findings for this tomb are being published during 2022. Hieroglyphs in the tomb of Royal Scribe Amenemopet (i) (TT 265), dating to the early 19th Dynasty, form the project’s second phase of recording.